Promoting Environmental Control, Social Interaction, and Leisure/Academy Engagement Among People with Severe/Profound Multiple Disabilities Through Assistive Technology

Promoting Environmental Control, Social Interaction, and Leisure/Academy Engagement Among People with Severe/Profound Multiple Disabilities Through Assistive Technology

Claudia De Pace (University of Bari, Italy) and Fabrizio Stasolla (University of Bari, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8789-9.ch068
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Abstract

When the authors talk about Assistive Technology (AT) they refer to all technological solutions that allow persons with multiple disabilities and profound cognitive disability to overcome their isolation and passivity to move around their environment, communicate with others, and to be involved developmentally in appropriate activities that they would be unable to do without this technology. There is an increasing range of AT available and the purpose of this contribution is to provide an overview of different aspects of daily living AT that enables people with multiple disabilities to interact independently with their preferred stimuli. The aim of this chapter is to provide an outline of technological resources used in rehabilitation research with persons with severe/profound and multiple disabilities and discuss the use of such resources. We focus on particular rehabilitation programs that involve the use of technological devices within the framework of conventional behavioral intervention for the acquisition and the maintenance of specific responses.
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Multiple Disabilities And Assistive Technology

Persons with multiple disabilities, such as cognitive disability combined with motor and visual impairments, are often unable to interact with their environment (Riddley & Rawlings, 2006; Verrotti, Greco, Spalice, Chiarelli, & Iannetti, 2006) and control stimulation opportunities due to very limited response skills (Saunders, Questad, Kedziorski, Boase, Patterson, & Cullinan, 2001; Holburn, Nguyen, & Vietze, 2004; Murphy, Saunders, Saunders, & Olswang, 2004). Often they are confined to a wheelchair or bed and have virtually no chances of constructive engagement with their immediate environment and are unable to play a positive role in their daily context (Holburn, Nguyen, & Vietze, 2004).

This condition (a) makes them look passive and largely dependent, (b) reduce their opportunities of constructive engagement and choice, and thus (c) hinders their prospects of personal development as well as their social image and quality of life.

A possibility of tackling such a condition involves the use of specific technological devices of Assistive Technology.

When we talk about Assistive Technology (AT) we refer to all technological solutions that allow persons with multiple disabilities and profound cognitive disability to overcome their isolation and passivity. AT has several definitions; however, for the purpose of this chapter it can be described as “any item, piece of equipment or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customised used to increase, maintain or improve engagement of persons with disabilities.”. It therefore covers a wide range of equipment from walking sticks to a Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA), a shower chair to a complex environmental control system, and there are a variety of AT assessment procedures available to determine the most suitable devices to overcome barriers encountered by people with pervasive motor and/or intellectual disabilities (Bain & Ledger, 1997; Behrmann & Shepis, 1994).

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